Last updated: 12 February 2024

Next review: 12 February 2025

Laws that apply to children with SEND

For all children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, including those with EHC plans, the law is as follows:

  • The Children and Families Act (‘CAFA’) 2014 is statute law and legally binding. This means that the local authority and schools must comply with it or else they are acting unlawfully. Part 3 of the CAFA 2014 contains the relevant sections about children and young people with SEND.
  • The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 are the main set of regulations underpinning the CAFA 2014.  They are also legally binding.
  • The Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations 2014. This is a special set of regulations dealing with personal budgets and direct payments. These have been amended since 2014.

The law is set out and expanded upon in the SEN and Disability Code of Practice (the ‘Code’). This Code provides much more detail on the legal framework relating to special educational needs and disabilities. Where it states a local authority, school, or college must do something, this is referring to compulsory obligations (set out in the laws and regulations. Where it says a local authority or other entity should do something, this is statutory guidance, not law. If there is any difference in what CAFA and the Code say, the CAFA takes precedence.

Laws that apply to disability discrimination

Children and young people with special educational needs may also be considered disabled.  There are some situations where disabled people are subjected to direct or indirect discrimination.  The relevant law is:

  • The Equality Act 2010

  • Equality Act 2010 (Disability Regulations) 2010
  • Disability Discrimination Act 2005 / 1995

Laws that apply to exclusions from school

Children and young people with SEND are at greater risk of exclusion from schools or post-16 institutions. The relevant law is:

Statute law

  • Education Act 2011 – this is the main statute that sets out what a school should do when excluding a pupil.
  • Education Act 2002 – this Act covers a wide range of topics, but section 52 still contains the basic power of head teachers to exclude a pupil from school, and it also contains provisions relating to the power of staff at school to search pupils.
  • Education and Inspections Act 2006 – this Act extended the law on schools’ power to discipline and makes parents responsible for ensuring their excluded child is not in a public place during the first five days of any exclusion. It also sets out the obligation on schools to arrange full-time educational provision for pupils who have been excluded for a fixed term, while local authorities have this responsibility where pupils have been permanently excluded.

Key regulations

  • School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/1033) – This contains detailed provisions about exclusions, and applies to maintained schools, pupil referral units, and Academies.
  • Education (Provision of Full-time Education for Excluded Pupils (England) Regulations 2012 – this sets out more detail on schools’ and LA’s obligations to provide education for excluded pupils.
  • Statutory guidance
  • Exclusion from maintained schools, Academies, and pupil referral units in England – this is the main statutory guidance which is divided into sections dealing with different aspects and each section is divided into two parts. In each case, the first part sets out what the law is, derived from the relevant statutes and regulations, and the second part sets out the statutory guidance.
  • Alternative Provision statutory guidance for local authorities – this guidance is for local authorities, schools, Academies, pupil referral units and alternative provision settings about the use and inspection of alternative provision